Joanne Freeman – The American RevolutionTable of ContentsContentsTable of Contents . 2The American Revolution: Lecture 1 Transcript . 3The American Revolution: Lecture 2 Transcript . 13The American Revolution: Lecture 3 Transcript . 22The American Revolution: Lecture 4 Transcript . 31The American Revolution: Lecture 5 Transcript . 41The American Revolution: Lecture 6 Transcript . 50The American Revolution: Lecture 7 Transcript . 61The American Revolution: Lecture 8 Transcript . 72The American Revolution: Lecture 9 Transcript . 83The American Revolution: Lecture 10 Transcript. 93The American Revolution: Lecture 11 Transcript. 103The American Revolution: Lecture 12 Transcript. 113The American Revolution: Lecture 13 Transcript. 124The American Revolution: Lecture 14 Transcript. 136The American Revolution: Lecture 15 Transcript. 148The American Revolution: Lecture 16 Transcript. 159The American Revolution: Lecture 17 Transcript. 170The American Revolution: Lecture 18 Transcript. 181The American Revolution: Lecture 19 Transcript. 191The American Revolution: Lecture 20 Transcript. 201The American Revolution: Lecture 21 Transcript. 211The American Revolution: Lecture 22 Transcript. 222The American Revolution: Lecture 23 Transcript. 232The American Revolution: Lecture 24 Transcript. 243The American Revolution: Lecture 25 Transcript. 253Index . 263Page 2 of 265
Joanne Freeman – The American RevolutionThe American Revolution: Lecture 1 TranscriptJanuary 12, 2010 backProfessor Joanne Freeman: Now, I'm looking out at all of these faces and I'm assuming that many of you haveprobably arrived here with some preconceived notions about the American Revolution. I'm assuming that atleast some of you are sitting there and in the back of your mind you're thinking‐‐Declaration of Independence,a bunch of battles, George Washington, a little bit of Paul Revere thrown in‐‐and all of those things are goingto appear in the course but obviously the real American Revolution is a lot more complex than that. It's morethan a string of names and documents and battles, and as a matter of fact in many ways the AmericanRevolution wasn't just a war. If you went back to the mid‐eighteenth century, went back to the period of theRevolution or maybe just after it, and you asked people how they understood what was happening, many ofthem would tell you that the war was actually only a minor part of the American Revolution. Some would tellyou the war actually wasn't the American Revolution at all and you'll see the‐‐I should mention that thesyllabus is finally up online so it's there for you, but you will see when you look at the syllabus that at the verystart of it there are two quotes and I want to read them here because they make this point really well.So the first quote is from a letter by John Adams and he's writing to Thomas Jefferson in 1815 and he's heardabout an attempt to write the history of the American Revolution so this is what Adams has to say about that."As to the history of the Revolution, my ideas may be peculiar, perhaps singular, but what do we mean by theRevolution? The war? That was no part of the Revolution." There is the moment where you go "Huh?" "It wasonly an effect and consequence of it. The Revolution was in the minds of the people, and this was effectedfrom 1760 to 1775, in the course of fifteen years before a drop of blood was drawn at Lexington."Okay. So there we have John Adams saying that the war was actually no part of the Revolution. It's a prettyfamous quote but it's a pretty interesting statement. Now I want to mention here, and it's very early in thecourse for me to have worked you in to liking John Adams and I'm going to talk more about John Adams in afew minutes, but I will mention here since I've just read that quote if partway through the semester you decideyou're just dying to read dead people's mail, which is basically what historians do for a living, a great volume toread is actually the letters that Jefferson and Adams sent back and forth to each other over the course of theirlives. They've all been pulled together into one volume and the best part of that volume is the end section, theletters in which these guys were writing to each other in their old age. So you have these two Founder figures,former presidents, and they're just basically letting it rip in these letters. They're talking about everything.They're talking about all the things actually you probably wouldn't talk about normally: religion, politics, whothey hate, who they like, what they thought of the Revolution, what they thought of their own presidency,what they thought of the other guy's presidency, the top ten Founder funerals. Actually, there's a little section,although I think it's the top three Founder funerals, but it's a weird, really interesting range of stuff and it's justthese two people really excited about the fact that they've retired and all they need to do now is write to eachother and really get to know each other better. So it's a great volume. It's edited by Lester Cappon. The lastname is C‐a‐p‐p‐o‐n if you're interested.Okay. So that quote I just read you is actually from that series of letters, Adams saying that the war was nopart of the Revolution. Adams does say, "Well, maybe my ideas are a little bit peculiar" but he's not the onlyone spouting that kind of thought. So here is Benjamin Rush, who I guess in a way you could say was doctor tothe stars. He was actually this renowned doctor from the revolutionary and early national period and he had alot of high‐placed political friends. So here's Benjamin Rush writing in 1787: "There is nothing more commonthan to confound the terms of the American Revolution with those of the late American war. The Americanwar is over but this is far from being the case with the American Revolution. On the contrary, nothing but thefirst act of this great drama is closed." So there you have Benjamin Rush saying that boy, this is a commonproblem. A lot of people mix up American Revolution with American war and they're not just one and thePage 3 of 265
Joanne Freeman – The American Revolutionsame thing. The war is over. The Revolution goes on, and Rush is saying this even as late as 1787. It's four yearsafter the treaty that ended the war, we're heading in to Constitution territory, and to Rush, the Revolution iscontinuing.So what do these people mean? Well, in part, they are expressing part of what this class is going to beexploring. They're basically suggesting that the American Revolution represented an enormous change ofmindset as loyal British colonists‐‐right?‐‐long‐standing loyal British colonists, were transformed gradually intoangry revolutionaries and ultimately into Americans. Like John Adams suggests, the beginnings of thistransformation predate the actual fighting, and like Benjamin Rush suggests, it doesn't just come to a closewhen you sign a peace treaty. So when you look at things from this broad view, the Revolution actuallybecomes the beginning of a period in which the American nation was really inventing itself, and this is a reallydramatic kind of invention. You have‐‐In a sense we're just little pipsqueaks at this point, and so you havethese little pipsqueaks and they are actually saying, "Okay. We reject monarchy. We're going to turn towards ademocratic republic." They're saying, "Yeah. Well, we know the power's been at the imperial center forever.We're going to turn our backs on that and pull power in to what's basically the margins of the British empire."They're turning away from an assumption that the few are in power and they're saying, "Well, what if we tryputting the many in power?"Those are pretty dramatic changes and they aren't of course the only changes. People‐‐Colonists began tothink about themselves differently. It's really easy to underestimate the degree to which individual colonies atthat time were really like little independent nation‐state colonies. They were not united in any sense of theterm. There wasn't any tradition of colonies being able to communicate between each other. It was actually insome ways easier to communicate with the mother country than to get some kind of news up and down theAtlantic seaboard. Colonists often knew more about the mother country than they knew about people fromother colonies. They‐‐When you look at correspondence from this period, people often refer‐‐Northerners willrefer to Southerners as though they're people from a strange, alien country who have weird accents. It's hardto know what they are saying; they dress so strangely. It's amazing to think about the differences, the degreeto which colonies really stood alone in this time period. And this idea, that there really is pretty much noreason to assume that these colonies would have been able to join together, that's pretty much going to be inthe first two or three lectures of the course. What we talk about is we try and get a sense of who thesecolonists are, and how they're ending up moving their way into a revolution. So this scattered group ofindependent colonists gradually came together to form one united nation, not the goal but the outcome.Given everything that I just said, you can see why this idea that there might be a united nation is actually apretty big surprise. You can see why a lot of people assumed that it could never work. You can actually alsoassume why a lot of people might not even have liked it as an idea, and you can even see why after theConstitution goes into effect and the government is getting under way, even then people were really just notsure this thing was going to work. They really‐‐They referred to it as an experiment, which is really how theyviewed it. And it's amazing when you look at letters from the 1790s you'll see these little throwawaycomments like "If this government lasts more than five years, here's what I think we should do." Okay, there‐‐It's a completely weird mindset and it's not something that we would assume is there, but this is pretty much ahigh‐stakes experiment.So this class is going to explore this big shift in mindset, and the war will be at the center of this shift, and it'sgoing to do this from a participant's point of view. It's going to really grapple with how things made sense atthe time to the people who were there. And I'm going to go more in to that in a minute or two.I want to talk for just a second about how the course is organized and just for a minute or two about some ofthe readings for the course. The course is partly chronological and partly thematic so we do proceed along, wefollow the narrative of events of how things evolved, all those nasty acts, people protesting, have a war, try toPage 4 of 265
Joanne Freeman – The American Revolutionfigure out what to do after the war. We do follow that sort of trajectory, but we're also going to once in a whilestep back and look at the big picture, so that we're not just following events; we're going to be always puttingevents in context.And the readings for the course go in that same direction. We're going to read Gordon Wood's “Radicalism ofthe American Revolution,” which is a really great overview of this time period and also presents an argument,obviously as you could tell from the title, that the Revolution was really radical. Some people agree with thatand some disagree, and actually one of the discussion sections is geared around discussing that very idea, andby the end of the course you'll probably have some pretty strong ideas not necessarily agreeing with mine but,based on what you've read and what I've said and what you've thought, you'll probably have some strongideas about how radical was the American Revolution.We're going to be reading Robert Gross's “The Minutemen and Their World,” which you can hear is right alongthe lines of what I was just saying. It really gives you a sense of what it was like at the time for people whoended up doing things like fighting at Lexington and Concord.We're going to read Bernard Bailyn's “Faces of Revolution,” which includes an array of chapters on differentpeople who played a major role in the Revolution as well as chapters on the ideals and the ideology or basicallythe logic of American independence, and Bailyn is really well known as sort of‐‐He wrote this amazing book onthe ideology of the American Revolution, and what you're going to be reading; he basically took a big, meatychunk from that book, the part that everybody really focuses on, and put it in this book, Faces of Revolution, sowe will be reading that as well as part of the readings for the course.We're also going to be reading Ray Raphael's “A People's History of the American Revolution,” which does justwhat the title would suggest. It does‐‐It looks at how different kinds of people, Native Americans, averagerebels, African Americans, Loyalists, women, how all of these different people of different types experiencedthe Revolution.And then in addition to reading historical scholarship, we're going to be reading some of the literature of theperiod. We're going to be reading Thomas Paine's “Common Sense,” which I love. How many of you have readCommon Sense before? A good number of you, not‐‐yeah, some of you. I love Common Sense. I think it's anamazing piece of writing, and I think when you read it for this course you'll get a sense of why it had such ahuge influence at the time.We're going to read some essays from “The Federalist Papers” written by Alexander Hamilton and JamesMadison and John Jay, but we are not going to read them as‐‐You may have read them before. You may haveencountered The Federalist essays as the grand source of authority on the Constitution. Right? How could itnot be that when you have Founder‐type guys talking about the Constitution and they were the guys who wereat the convention? Well, the fact of the matter is The Federalist essays weren't intended to be an objectivedocument. They're actually really subjective, and we're going to look at them in this course as what they werewritten to be, which is a really big commercial advertisement for this new experimental Constitution. Theywere actually trying to sell people on an idea, and because of that, as we'll see when we read that for thiscourse, there are things in there that maybe are a little bit exaggerated and things in there that maybe aren'ttalked about in great detail and one or two things that probably aren't really true but it was in a good cause.Right? These guys are saying, "I really think this Constitution is the way to go. Let me say something that'sgoing to really calm you so that we can go ahead with this experiment."And of course we're going to be reading the Declaration of Independence. We're going to be reading theConstitution. We're going to be reading a lot of documents and letters and other kinds of assorted items toreally give us a sense of the period, and at one point I'm even going to bring in a newspaper from the period soPage 5 of 265
Joanne Freeman – The American Revolutionthat we can actually look at it and get a sense of how people are getting news of the war
Joanne Freeman – The American Revolution Page 3 of 265 The American Revolution: Lecture 1 Transcript January 12, 2010 back Professor Joanne Freeman: Now, I'm looking out at all of these faces and I'm assuming that many of you have
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